Kindle Forum banner

Amazon book reviews deleted in a purge aimed at manipulation

1662 Views 11 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  keithdraws
Thought you would all find this interesting :)

Giving raves to family members is no longer acceptable. Neither is writers' reviewing other writers. But showering five stars on a book you admittedly have not read is fine.

After several well-publicized cases involving writers buying or manipulating their reviews, Amazon is cracking down. Writers say thousands of reviews have been deleted from the shopping site in recent months.

Amazon has not said how many reviews it has killed, nor has it offered any public explanation. So its sweeping, but hazy purge has generated an uproar about what it means to review in an era when everyone is an author and everyone is a reviewer.

Is a review merely a gesture of enthusiasm or should it be held to a higher standard? Should writers be allowed to pass judgment on peers the way they have always done offline or are they competitors whose reviews should be banned? Does a groundswell of raves for a big new book mean anything if the author is soliciting the comments?

In a debate percolating on blogs and on Amazon itself, quite a few writers take a permissive view on these issues. Mystery novelist J.A. Konrath, for example, does not see anything wrong with an author indulging in chicanery. "Customer buys book because of fake review = zero harm," he wrote on his blog.

Once a populist gimmick, the reviews are vital to making sure a new product is not lost in the digital wilderness. Amazon has refined the reviewing process over the years, giving customers the opportunity to rate reviews and comment on them. It is layer after layer of criticism.

Nowhere are reviews more crucial than with books, an industry in which Amazon captures nearly a third of every dollar spent. It values reviews more than other online booksellers like Apple or Barnes & Noble, featuring them prominently and using them to help decide which books to acquire for its own imprints by its relatively new publishing arm.

In explaining its purge of reviews, Amazon has told some writers that "we do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors."

"A not-insubstantial chunk of their infrastructure is based on their reviews - and all of that depends on having reviews customers can trust," said Edward W. Robertson, a science-fiction novelist who has watched the debate.
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Well, that last line you quoted is key, isn't it? 
"reviews customers can trust".  If they can't, then why have reviews at all?
I just don't see any decisive means of achieving a complete set of trustworthy reviews.

With the huge volume of books available, readers want to see at a glance what they should download. Cover, stars, blurb, reviews, preview. Each item is successively more time consuming.
As a reader, I am suspicious when I see (usually on Twitter) a claim like "93 five-star reviews!"  and other similarly high-ranking accolades. 

As a writer, I wish I had a few more reviews on Amazon...
Of course, it is wrong to pay or manipulate somebody to put good reviews up.

That said:

It's not like you pick up a book in a bookstore and see BAD reviews on the inside front cover. Of course, they get to cherry pick.

Those of you with only 5 star reviews won't understand, but for those of us with a more colorful group of reviewers seem to find that the trolls appear in waves. What's up with that, anyway?

My last 2 star was actually pretty witty, and i smiled and bled at the same time. OK, the guy is not a fan, but he read the book and came up with something clever to say. For whatever they are worth, the reviews do add to the content of a site like Amazon. Plus the current controversy is generating a lot more publicity for the Zon. They seem to win no matter what happens.
"A not-insubstantial chunk of their infrastructure is based on their reviews..."
Anyone know what that means?
Terrence OBrien said:
Anyone know what that means?
iMO, it was a rather clunky way to say that Amazon is popular because consumers can go there and check a variety of reviews. It is part of the website's content. I seldom read book reviews, other than for amusement, but I do check out reviews of physical goods. I never used to suspect that Sadie from Kansas could be a paid sock puppet when she reviewed a particular model of steam cleaner or frying pan.
I encouraged a friend to buy a Kindle last month and she did. She told me how she finally left her first review on Amazon and it was for an Indie ebook. She said the very next day she received an email from Amazon thanking her for her review and encouraging her to write more for books she has read. Seems to me AMZ is pushing customers for reviews or at least her.

I've left plenty of reviews over the years and never received an Amazon Thank You email?
jackz4000 said:
I've left plenty of reviews over the years and never received an Amazon Thank You email?
You get some sort of confirmation once the review goes live.

And every now and then, I'll get an email of them asking me to review recent purchases.

I like the crowd-sourcing idea ... if they can just get more and more customer reviews, it's got to wash out to be more accurate, no? I'd love to see more people who think a book is a 4 posting their thoughts. As it is, most regular non-blogger folks tend to review only if it's a 5 or a 1. Extreme love or hate is their motivator. ;-) The 4s and 3s can be really helpful to customers, as well.
I did sometimes get a confirmation, but not the Thank You she received.
Terrence OBrien said:
Anyone know what that means?
Nope. That dude is a mess. Should probably give up writing right now. :)

That quote (hopefully) made more sense in context, which was how Amazon treats reviews differently from the other stores. Like, Amazon is crazy for reviews. Reviews are front and center on all their products. They give you several ways to sort by rating. Part of their decisions about which books to promote and what to recruit for their own imprints is based on the strength of reviews.

TL;DR: Amazon uses reviews to help sell books.

Compare this to the iBookstore, where you don't even see a star rating until you click through to the book itself. Apple doesn't appear to give a damn about reviews. It's not one of the things they use to drive sales. Certainly not in the same way Amazon does.
Just a thought.

Is it possible to offer an incentive  for customers/readers to leave a review (good or bad)?
Say perhaps a digital gift token that gives a discount on their next purchase of one of your books?

I can't see a problem with that but would Amazon?

As a side note I dare not give reviews to anybody, because as a cover artist  I could easily be perceived as having a commercial interest.  I don't want  to cause the banning of any author or myself. So I must always  decline if asked.
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.